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Environmental groups ask Congress to fund billions of dollars in climate measures in reconciliation

<i>Matt Young/AP/FILE</i><br/>Environmental groups are asking Congress to fund billions of dollars in climate measures. This May 6
Matt Young/AP/FILE
Environmental groups are asking Congress to fund billions of dollars in climate measures. This May 6

By Ella Nilsen, CNN

As Democratic lawmakers begin crafting a massive $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package this week, a coalition of prominent environmental groups is asking them to include between $577 billion and $746 billion for key climate provisions.

In a letter delivered to members of Congress on Tuesday and shared exclusively with CNN, groups including the League of Conservation Voters, Climate Power, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for American Progress and the Sierra Club laid out what they called a “climate test” of programs they want lawmakers to support, including a Clean Electricity Payment Program, tax credits for clean energy and electric vehicles, and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.

The groups also laid out the minimum amount of funding they want to see allotted to each program, which they say are estimates to give lawmakers a sense of the scale of spending they want to see.

“The point of the climate test is to say it’s all the red line,” Christy Goldfuss, senior vice president of energy and environment policy at the Center for American Progress, told CNN, indicating the groups consider the entire package of requests a must-pass. “If you look at the total package here, it’s a fraction of the $3.5 trillion they’re talking about.”

The letter outlines demands including $191 billion to $265 billion for 10-year direct-pay tax credits for clean electricity generation like wind and solar, and $37 billion to $120 billion for clean-vehicle tax credits for both new and used electric vehicles.

It calls for Congress to fund at least a $150 billion Clean Electricity Payment Program, which would provide incentives and payments for electricity suppliers to gradually increase the amount of clean electricity they produce, and at least $20 billion for grants and rebates to make homes more sustainable and energy efficient. The letter seeks at least $27 billion for a Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator — also known as a green bank — which would leverage private funding and work to get more clean energy projects to disadvantaged communities.

The climate groups also call on Congress to impose fees on the oil and gas industry and end fossil fuel subsidies. Together, the groups estimate, this would raise between $35 billion and $55 billion over 10 years.

The provisions the groups list are already included in the budget reconciliation framework Congress approved last month, although it’s not yet determined how much funding each will receive. Environmental and climate groups are going to lobby lawmakers to not trim the overall size of the climate provisions in reconciliation, underscoring that they make up a relatively small portion of the overall price tag.

“Failure is not an option to get this done,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, the senior vice president of government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, told CNN. “We’re doing everything we possibly can. We’re having conversations regularly with all Senate offices, all members of Congress.”

While most of the work on the budget reconciliation bill will happen this month, the fate of the legislation is not certain. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a crucial swing vote for Democrats, wrote last week that his party should pause before considering the bill and think about trimming the overall cost. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a fellow Democratic moderate, has also expressed reservations about the cost.

“These policies are going to be hugely beneficial in West Virginia, in Arizona,” Sittenfeld told CNN.

Jamal Raad, the executive director of Evergreen Action, one of the groups that signed the letter, told CNN the leverage that groups and progressive lawmakers have for passing bold climate provisions in the reconciliation bill is holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage, which Manchin and Sinema want to see passed.

“I don’t believe it will pass the House unless we’re passing a reconciliation bill alongside it,” Raad said. “I do not think they’ll have the votes.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the groups’ funding request to make homes more efficient. It is at least $20 billion.

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